Saturday, 23 October 2010

burning not-so-bright

I will never forget the day I met Arjun. He was the most beautiful creature I had ever laid eyes on. Menacing but beautiful eyes, 500 pounds of pure, natural muscle, limbs that could tear through you. But at the same time so dignified and truly awesome. Deep in the reserves of Ranthambore, he was a three-year-old male tiger; one of the handful left in the one well-populated forest reserve. And I mean well-populated in terms of tiger population. If you look at human numbers, the reserve was flourishing, filled to the brim with tribals and collectors of fruits and whatnot from the forest. Collecting was their prime occupation.

It took us a while to get used to Arjun. My mentor had much more experience with tigers and was a natural tracker. I on the other hand nearly got killed when I ruined an almost-kill for Arjun. I stepped on a twig and scared off his prey. He was furious. With that I pretty much ruined any chances I had of him allowing me in his territory.

After several months, the fierce king of the forest was ensnared in a trap. Literally. I was setting up the tiger counting system when I heard strange, almost pitiful noises from about 50 feet away. Our hearing improves vastly in the silent parts of the forest where the animals tend to live, away from preying poachers and humans. I followed the noise and found Arjun.

It really was pitiful. His front left leg had got trapped and was mangled. He was patiently trying to stop the bleeding by licking it but I knew that would not help. He snarled at me and tried getting up, but he couldn’t, and fell back down with a cry. He would not let me help him, so I did something I promised myself I’d never do.
I sedated him with a dart. I stitched him up, managed to saw off the trap, gave him an antibiotic shot and prayed he would be ok. Then I noticed how skinny he had become and set off to find him some carcasses. I wandered for what felt like several hours and managed to get a deer’s carcass which had been ensnared in another trap. The poor thing had bled to death. I noticed it was a lactating female and could only hope that its little ones would be looked after by the herd.

When I took it back to Arjun, he was in the same place. He refused to eat it in front of me. He limped away, presumably to his hiding hole. I wanted to check on him desperately, over the next few days. But I held myself back.

My mentor told me finally, after about a week, that I should go look for him. I found him near his hole, lapping from a tiny, almost non-existent puddle of god-knows-what. And I started weeping, cursing humans furiously. He looked at me with his big eyes and did not make any move towards me. Nor did he snarl, though.
The trap had caused damage in his limb, which may never heal. As I followed him around the reserve, I noticed he found it much more difficult to find his own food, and began helping him. Slowly he grew to trust me.

By that time I had also got a tigress to soften towards me after I rescued two of her cubs from another male tiger, and once prevented her from eating a poisoned cow. In the former situation, she found the carcass of her first cub and wandered the forest with its body for almost two days before letting it go.

After a few years, when Arjun healed, he even managed to mate a few times and began to regain his stature in the ecosystem much to my joy.

Arjun died nine years after I first saw him, when I was away from the reserve. He was old by tiger standards, 12. His arthritic limbs did not allow him to hunt very well anymore and he was weak with no food and high summer temperatures in his environment. A combination of those two killed him quite fast, I judged when I saw his body.

By that time we were strong friends. I had developed a mechanism to call him and once he even managed to find me when he was in trouble, in his last years when his arthritis was bad and he was starving. I cried publicly and privately for the first tiger who ever let me in to his home, when I was just a novice in Ranthambore.

People say I’m crazy when I say my first real love was for a tiger. A dead tiger now. But other environmental conservationists will understand exactly what I mean.

anyone can support tigers.
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Wednesday, 20 October 2010

let's not talk

I have learnt it’s always better to keep things to yourself. Never mind if it weighs you down, never mind that you cry alone, never mind that you see people proclaiming their bowel movements on the internet and in office but you keep mum about most of your life. It’s the simplest, and best, thing to do. And these days with the effing internet, you never know when someone is going to put something up in a secret entry on a blog, or make a vague reference on a status message or god knows what.

I like keeping my secrets well, secret. No, I don’t have issues. It doesn’t mean I don’t love my friends and family, or that I don’t trust them, or that I’m weighed down by my private thoughts etc. It just means I like sorting out stuff on my own. It’s easier. When I want opinions, I ask. That itself, sadly, finds me in not very pleasant situations, albeit only sometimes.

I need my friends and family. I love them to pieces. So like I said, when I'm in supremely dire straits, I will seek help. I'm always afraid though, that if I do, people will be too busy with their life to give me a hand. And may go crazy helping me and supplying me with constant pearls of wisdom -- and may ask me to break down all my walls in their enthusiasm to help. My walls are a part of who I am. There’s a reason they’re there. It’s warped logic, but it *is* logic. I don’t think I’ll ever meet that one fictitious person supposed to break down all of a person’s walls with one look or kiss. If I do, I’ll probably laugh my ass of instead of doing any tiring labour work.

I like putting up a brave exterior even when I feel like a dark cloud about to spew thunder and endless water on an unsuspecting planet. And I like writing about it, or sweating it out at dance/on a treadmill, crying my eyes over it behind a firmly locked door much to my Labrador’s consternation, and annoying people by not telling them what’s going on. I like trying to work it out on my own. I think I’m fairly intelligent and logical, and when I’m not feeling so, I may ask for a second opinion, one that is rational. But it’s difficult to explain, and too close to my heart to be analysed by ones that do not know all the workings of my mind and thus my life. And really, I can handle it. I always have and have been through the very worst on my own.

So really, make what you want of me. If you think I’m a certain way because of you, sorry to disappoint, but that’s not true. It’s because of my own past and the way I've constructed myself. If I get drunk and cry, I’m sorry, it doesn't mean I'm weak or dying to talk; it's the alcohol. If I don’t say much when you’re pouring your heart out, I’m sorry. But I do listen well and damn, I analyse well. I’m sorry I annoy you with “I don’t wanna talk about it”; I really don't.

Sorry for it all, but I doubt it’s going to change, so let's try and deal with it.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

straw on my back

I always wondered about the phrase, the straw that broke the camel’s back. How could straw possible do that? As a child, metaphors like this baffled me. I never understood the human language. Maybe it had something to do with me never hearing it. It didn’t bother me, not being able to hear. I immersed myself in my art the only time I was ever bothered about being different – when I was a teenager. And since then I had never felt out of place again.

I seemed to be raising a normal child, I was a fairly well to do artist and graphic designer, I was happily married. The second time around seemed to be treating me better. My first marriage was a disaster. He beat me, made me feel like it was my fault I could not hear, he thought I couldn’t tell when he spoke to his mistresses on the phone, in hushed whispers, that bastard.

But one day, I understood the camel’s predicament. That poor, godforsaken camel. When he found out I was pregnant, he beat me till I bled. He did not want a child with "defects" he said. I miscarried.

I left that night with everything in the world I could ever need: my essentials. Since my fourth week of marriage I had always kept a small bag with clothes and my jewellery, ready to make a dash. That, along with my most prized canvas, and a camcorder which had footage of me trying to tell my first husband that the pregnancy was a mistake, footage of him then beating the pulp out of me. I had my lawyer friend on speed-dial. And once she arrived, I left with those three things. Oh yes, and my self respect. The most essential of all.

Saturday, 2 October 2010

remember me

I think I can now fathom those statements made in my BA English classes about art, specifically theatre, leading to catharsis in the audience. And now I appreciate art a little bit more. Or rather I’m reminded why I love some forms of art – music, movies, whatever.

I saw this movie which made me cry. Not small sympathetic or empathetic tears, but the way I strangely, and without explanation, broke down in school near the evening tiffin after I read the Harry Potter book in which Sirius Black dies and Potter loses his godfather.

Losing a biological parent and never having a replacement is not something one can simply ignore. Usually you can. But sometimes – only sometimes if you’re a tough nut – you are reminded of it. Or rather, it is pointed out to you that you are different from others in this regard, that you have feelings you forgot existed [or maybe never knew existed]. And you wonder: will they ever go away; will I ever forgive that parent for inflicting xyz on the other, remaining parent, on my sibling; will I ever forgive him for not leaving me a normal kid, for leaving me with daddy issues the size of the Arctic, forever?

And then one remembers – everything happens for the best. [this is something one can only appreciate in hindsight.]

Life is always so strange, so bloody unpredictable. We try to predict it by getting our palms read, by reading our horoscopes, by making plans for the future, charting out things we want to do, by creating bubbles around ourselves and only letting a few things inside, by visiting psychologists, or we try to avoid it by eating our favourite pizza, by getting drunk, by popping a Valium and sleeping for 15 hours…. But we can’t escape life, or its unpredictability and seeming callousness towards us.

It’s always there. Always changing. It’s always gonna trip us, make us realize we have feelings we didn’t know about, make us cry for joy, want to freeze a moment, help someone cross the road, scratch someone’s eyes out, and so many other things I don’t even know about.

I don’t know what I’m saying or trying to get at. I’m not saying I believe in fate or destiny. It’s hard to believe in anything or anyone these days. But I’m beginning to believe that if something hurts us, it’s for a reason.

We’ll figure out the godforsaken reason later, sometimes never if we don’t keep our eyes open… but if we wait long enough, there’s always a reason for every shitty incident in our life, every crappy person we meet – we maybe blind to the reason or logic [if you can call it that]. But it’s there somewhere.

I don’t know if there’s ever just one obvious reason – but it’s like forgetting something. Suddenly one day when you stop thinking, racking your brains to remember what it is, it comes back to you. And you smile. For the first time that whole day, a genuine smile. For yourself, not for anyone else. And you feel happy. And if you can’t think of anyone you can share the forgotten thought with, someone who’ll understand its significance or randomness, it doesn’t mean you’re friendless, lonely and will die alone. It probably means you just need a moment alone to be grateful on your own – remind yourself you exist for yourself. Not for others.

It’s easy to forget that sometimes, that it’s alright to be alone once in a way even in the age of Facebook and microblogging. At some point, even I forgot.

**I realise Gandhi Jayanti is a strange day to remember I should live for myself but I hope Gandhi gets what I mean. I still intend on helping helpless little animals [I’m not a people person] but humans, well, never mind. No offense, Gandhi.